1. There is the "regime", as exemplified by the Supreme Leader and his offices.
2. There is President Ahmadinejad and those who are still his allies in "Government".
3. There are the factions of the "Green movement".
4. There are opposition figures like Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.
5. There are the conservative/principlist factions who are pressing for some, however limited, concessions from the Government to defuse the continuing resistance to "legitimacy"
Responding to our queries over the aims and language of the Mir Hossein Mousavi statement, EA readers --- who reflected our initial claim that Mousavi's declaration had divided opinion in the Green movement --- have brought out multiple possibilities, both anticipated and unexpected. Perhaps the most intriguing came last night:
Iran: The Non-Violent “Watershed” of the Mousavi Statement (Shahryar)
Iran: A Gut Reaction to Mousavi’s “Martyrdom v. Compromise” Statement (Lucas)
Iran Document: Mousavi’s “5 Stages to Resolution” Statement (1 January)
By offering a five point compromise, even each and every point is unacceptable, [Mousavi] has started the argument for compromise amongst the cronies of the regime....The regime collapsing over night is terrible. The regime has to evolve to collapse over a period of time, and the Mousavi plan is a great path forward. It sets a simple basic agenda that if enforced will spell the end of the Islamic Republic of Iran as we know it as a dictatorial theocracy. Any one of the five points is a no-starter, no-go for the regime, however...if the current stalemate continues it is also the end of the regime.
In a sense Mousavi is masterfully acknowledging that he is losing control of the Green wave, but also masterfully turns this to a time pressure on the regime, saying deal with me or deal with the wrath of the people who will rip you apart.
That analysis, however, takes us to individuals and groups who often do not make it to the public microscope. In the last 48 hours --- returning to initiatives in the days and weeks before that --- the clerics, politicians, and members of Parliament who do not sympathise with the Green movement or Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, but who also are unsettled by the post-election and the political and economic approach of the Government, have been pressing for their own "compromise". Rule out the Green movement's challenge, even put it to the judicial sword if protests continue, but also acknowledge some errors in the detentions, the mass trials, the unwillingness to accept any mistakes were made after 12 June.
My initial reading was that this move within the establishment --- seen in the letter of Presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei, the proposals of MP Ali Motahari, the calls of clerics like Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi and possibly Ayatollah Javadi-Amoli, and possibly even in the general statements of Hashemi Rafsanjani --- was a threat to Mousavi, undermining his 5-point proposal and forcing him into either capitulation or ostracism with the Green Wave.
The EA reader's comment turns that reading around: it is Mousavi who puts pressure on a regime which is far more than the Supreme Leader and the President, exposing and widening its own fissures which persist and possibly mean more, amidst the erosion of its authority, than the supposed strength of its security forces and its punishments.
That reading in turn takes us back to earlier multi-sided chess matches, especially between June and the end of August when Ahmadinjead's inauguration for a second term was not assured, when the President was battling with other conservative/principlist factions and even the Supreme Leader for control of key ministries, and when Parliament was flirting with the idea of throwing out Ahmadinejad's proposed Cabinet.
All of that in-fighting seemed to recede by September but the resilience of protest --- it just won't go away --- may have revived the contests. Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani's daily show of his fist to the demonstrators may also be an unsubtle display of his power and ambitions; alternatively, it could be an assertion of the Supreme Leader's wishes, in which President Ahmadinejad could take on the role of cipher or scapegoat. The members of Parliament, who also have the President's proposed economic programme --- still unpassed after three months --- as a target, may choose not to bow down in acceptance, as they did at the start of September.
All or none of those possibilities may occur. They are important, however --- even as they go unnoticed by many outside Iran --- for they are the manoeuvres and the contests that occur between the public surges of the Green Wave. They are the fabric of power, a fabric that may be stitched together yet again or may now fray as a Government unravels.